April Fool’s Run

This was the 2nd year I ran this. It was one of those last minute decisions where I signed up the week of the race. It was a very nice race, as we got to run on Vancouver Island – which is a short ferry ride from Vancouver, B.C., about 45 minutes from Horseshoe Bay, just north of West Vancouver.

My husband and I never bother making reservations for the ferry, although the ferry always advises travellers to do so to guarantee a specific sailing time. Nowadays, going over with a car and passengers is mighty expensive and to make a reservation, one has to pay $15 on top of the cost of each passenger. We really did not mind the wait as it was minor, maybe because we took the 7:30am ferry, which was clear sailing. Just a handful of cars and definitely not crowded.

It was a beautiful but cool morning. Going on the ferry always proves a lot of fun for us. We always guess if we’ll be directed to the upper or the lower deck. The most dreadful part about taking the ferry is having to grab our belongings from the car and walk the long flight of stairs to the desired deck. My legs were especially heavy that day. However, once you get up to the passenger decks, the view is usually so breathtaking!

Once we made it upstairs, we picked some quiet seats and just chilled. Looking out, I always remind myself why the slogan on our license plates says Beautiful British Columbia. Definitely not because of its over-crowdedness and high-rises constantly being built, but because of the raw beauty of its mountains & water.

Looking out, it was very pretty. I hardly felt like I was going to a race, but more so going on a day-trip to the island. We saw several runners who were also racing that morning. Everyone was relaxed.

As we got off the ferry, the race venue was a mere 10 minute drive. As we arrived, the shuttle buses carrying runners were already dropping off walked-on ferry passengers. We all walked into the community centre to pick up our bibs. On the way out, we spotted the BMO mascot, so I grabbed a picture with him. I like doing kiddish things like that, it just makes me chuckle!

This race was odd, as the start was at 9:17 a.m.( or some sort of odd time). In the crowd were a few people who dressed up for April Fool’s Day but not too many. Nice to see that mix in the crowd.

As soon as the race started, there was this slight climb. Oh my, my legs felt like they were glued to the ground. The first 400 metres felt so hard. This was a hilly course all right. So if anyone registered thinking it would be a fair course, they were definitely fooled!

Seriously, this race was non-stop climbing, one hill after another. And one of the hills were super long, about one mile straight.

It got warmer as the race went on and I started heating up. It was nice to see much of the community volunteering for this event. Even the senior citizens. One lady in particular who was dressed up – I recognized her from last year. Extremely friendly and enthusiastic. I would definitely nominate her as the best volunteer of the day!

I talked and ran with another woman throughout a great portion of the race, until about the 20 km mark when I passed her. The last kilometre was still uphill, and I just wished to get it over with. A few runners charged to the finish, while I took my time jogging to the finish. I did not have any time expectations, I just wanted to cross that finish line. What helped me get there was spectators who shouted “I like your shirt!” which said, “run for the bling”! It was a special shirt I bought in Florida.

So for April Fool’s, I fooled myself into running all these hills for the bling! On to the mission for more bling (finisher’s medals!)

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Cupcake Run Half Marathon

Who wouldn’t like cupcakes at the end of a run? Personally, I like cupcakes any time of the day. If I did not have to monitor my caloric intake, I would have a cupcake a day. Have you noticed the cool designs and the variety of flavours out there now? In the old days, cupcakes were so basic. Nowadays, the rainbow of colours are so appetizing. Just thinking about them makes me hungry.

The name Cupcake Run has a history. The race director was turning 45 the first year she organized the event, and so she decided on the name “Cupcake Run”. How fitting, birthdays with cupcakes. Since that inaugural year, the event has continued to attract more runners. The organizer actually has a number of Cupcake Runs throughout the year, all with the same theme of serving cupcakes at the end of the race.

This Cupcake Run was held in March in Arlington, Washington. It was comprised of a 50K, half marathon and a 10K. If I were to run the 50K, I would definitely want to eat as many cupcakes afterwards!

When I got to the venue, I was already eyeing the finishers’ table. No cupcakes yet. But I saw many, many familiar faces. Lots of Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics. Most surprising of all was seeing Steven and Patti there. It had been almost over a year since I last saw them. Believe me when I say they are the most humble and down-to-earth couple around. And just in case you don’t know Steven, he is one of the founders of the Marathon Maniacs club, which just celebrated its 14th anniversary. I am pretty sure when the 3 founding Maniacs started this “most insane” running club, they couldn’t have imagined that the number of members would grow to what it is today. Over 15,000 members each for the Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics club and still growing. What a success!

The club is world-renowned and its members are global. Often, at a half or a marathon event when I’ve worn Marathon Maniac/Half Fanatics gear, other Maniacs or Fanatics have come up to say hi – there is that form of camaraderie when you’re part of the club. Additionally, at some races we get special privileges such as private bathrooms or after-race lounge areas. There are good perks in joining this club, besides being called “crazy”!

As soon as the gun went off for the start of the half, the front runners charged off like darts. I always remained in the mid-pack. I ran with another Half-Fanatic who told me she was racing a marathon the following week. Quite a taper! She finally told me to go ahead of her if I wanted, so I ran up to another group of runners and chatted until we stopped to ask a runner who just hurt her knee. We were all concerned. But she insisted on continuing with her race. We passed her and continued on. I talked about injuries with another runner. She happens to be a physiotherapist and said she always tell her clients to rest and recover fully before attempting to run again (but she secretly admitted she’s made exceptions for herself).

It was one of those days where, throughout the whole race, I felt I could run forever. I was feeling strong. As I was running back towards the finish, I spotted the injured runner again. I stopped to check if she was doing okay. At that moment, some volunteer on a bike brought her a sandwich and she said she would be fine. So I passed her and shortly I came upon 12.5 miles on my watch.

I kept running hoping for a strong finish, and like I said I was feeling good and I was in the zone. I guess I was way too much in the zone because I missed the cut-off point to the finish line and ended up continuing on until I hit 14 miles. I looked around and realized something was not right. Indeed. I realized that I had kept going instead of making a left turn towards the finish, so I had to find my way back to the finish. There was no one around me, not in front or behind. My instincts told me to head towards the road; when I got there the shoulders on the road were so narrow, almost non-existent. I started to panic because I had no clue if I was going in the right direction and I had no money or phone on me. Cars were passing me so fast, I felt a real sense of danger running on the shoulder, so I slowed down to a light jog, taking it one step at a time. I noticed the road that I drove by that morning to get to the race and followed it; luckily I had slight memory of what sights I had passed so by the time I spotted the parking lot, I finally felt a bit calmer. Never had I felt so lost or frightened. Despite being an experienced runner, the unexpected can still happen.

When I got to the finish line (but going the opposite way), I realized I had run almost 15 miles. I didn’t see my husband at the finish line because he had gone searching for me, suspecting that I had probably gotten lost or hurt or something. I waited at the finish line for him, and when we saw each other we both felt relieved.

Once I was fully calm, I explained the situation to the race organizer. In order to get a finishing result, I had to prove to the race organizer that I had run longer. The runners who were behind me at mile 12.5 all pointed out to the race organizer that they saw me running ahead on the trail. But besides their word, how else was I supposed to prove myself? Luckily when I got home, I was able to download my GPS results which I forwarded to the race director. It was accepted and I was able to get my results. Phew, what an adventure!

I thank my lucky stars for guiding me.  I still have goose-bumps each time I think about this race; the danger and the what-ifs that run through my mind.

So despite all those thoughts of mouth-watering cupcakes, I unfortunately did not have a chance to joyfully sample them. But I must thank the organizers and their family putting on such a fun race, despite my mishap. Portions of this race’s proceeds go towards needy families, which I am always in support of. It was a scary adventure for me personally, but I now know the proper route and will be back for more cupcakes! With my heartfelt thanks!

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Mercer Island Half Marathon

March 18th marked the 45th anniversary of the Mercer Island Half. It was a beautiful gorgeous spring morning. When we arrived, lots and lots of runners were inside the Mercer Island community centre. It was a bit chaotic. On the lower floor, runners were picking up their running bibs, and every room in the centre was full. In an effort to control the flow of people, security allowed only a one-way entry onto the lower floor, and anyone trying to get back up onto the main floor had to walk outside and re-enter through the main entrance.

We walked into a room full of runners stretching, families preparing their kids for the kids’ dash, 5k runners, 10k runners, half marathon runners. Everybody seemed to be busy, the buzz was just wild.

As I was sitting down, I looked out the window and caught sight of the most beautiful view as the sun began piercing through the clouds I snapped a picture and was in awe, but as I looked further right, I realized the race director just started the 10k race and the runners were off. We had half an hour left before our 9 am start. So I began my pre-race routine and headed for the bathrooms. The bathroom line inside the building was so long that I decided to line up for the potties outside instead. DJs were playing music and runners slowly walked towards the start line. There were signs designating everyone to their desired corrals: finally 10 minutes per mile and over. I was in the last corral, although lots of runners beside me looked like they could belong to one of the faster corrals.

At precisely 9:00 a.m., the half started. The sun was shining bright. As each runner went through the chute, all the spectators were cheering. But soon after, we made a turn, and the hills began. But running in a big group made it seem like the hills were not such a big deal because everyone is in a pack. Realistically for me that day, they were not, for I was so mesmerized by all the unbelievable real-estate around me. These were all huge homes. Many with their private docks and sail boats. I just could not believe some of the sizes of these properties. They looked more like country clubs than residences. Absolutely right out of an architectural magazine. And the cars in the garages, oh my! So many nice cars.

Anyhow, the whole route was rather shaded, so even with the strong sun, it did not get overly hot. And the cops were super friendly. At certain angles you could peek down into the waters, and the lake was very pretty. The miles went by really fast, and by mile 12, I recognized a few familiar faces from past races running near me. One guy, he was injured so decided to take on the half that day. We were side by side, but he seemed to have more power in his legs that day than previously; each time there was a hill, he seemed to be able to stay ahead of me. When I got to the last half mile, I thought the hills were done, but there was this semi big hill waiting at the very end during the final 400 metres of the race. That was tough. Not too often I walk to the finish, but I thought about it. However, I was feeling strong enough to endure and push, but had the hills been longer, I definitely would have chosen to walk.

After crossing the finish line and receiving my medal, I sat down on the sidewalk to catch my breath.

Overall, this was a tough race. As you can see from the course map, there were lots of climbs and turns. But I like what the race supports. A fight against cancer. Plus, the course was absolutely gorgeous. A strong sense of community was very apparent, and the volunteers, they were just super friendly, which can make all the difference in a race.

Guess this passage summarized how my race was that day (see picture):

a half marathon test of will…

…once you have reached the end,

but you will find (despite the grind) you’ll want to try again.

Yes, how true this is! Until the next one!

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Green Sock Half & Shamrock’n Race 2017

Quite obviously, this was a St. Patty’s Day race! Gorgeous morning but still little on the chilly side. The race, organized by Try Events, had a half marathon distance, a 7 miler, and a 5km. On this day I ran the half, but I had run the half marathon in the past as well as the 7 miler, so I was quite familiar with the course.

The half consisted of a 2-loop trail around Burnaby Lake. Sometimes I enjoy doing a loop course like this one but other times, a point to point course is better. As runners thin out by the 2nd loop, it is usually a little more difficult to stay focused.

The first time I ran this race I didn’t realize this trail even existed – although it is right beside a highway, it is so tucked away that you feel like you are in a real forest. I like this trail because it is gently rolling and very serene, with little ducks in the pond and little streams as well.

I met a few runners that day: an old friend who was running a 5k, and then a running buddy doing the 7 miler.

As I injured my foot the week before, I was being extremely cautious not to twist it again. Turns out that overall my foot felt better than I expected but I still had to be careful because it still hurt on certain angles. I know I was being a rebel to run so soon after twisting it, but the softer trail surface was actually better for my footing than road running.

When I injured my foot, I could barely walk up or down the stairs. I was limping and hopping. The first few days hurt like crazy. But I stuck to the R.I.C.E. method (rest, ice, compression & elevate) to recover. I found that applying ice on my swollen foot helped so much. I did it about 4-5 times a day. Each time for about 15 min. The swelling had gone down quite fast, which allowed me to get back to racing quite soon after.

This wasn’t my fastest race, but to even finish it after having had a twisted ankle, I was in heaven! And to top it off, the finishers area had free pancakes. Yum! What a great way to celebrate! Not to mention, the medal was cute as ever.

A lot of the 7 milers dressed up for this St. Patty’s Day race. Nothing on me was green except my compression socks – guess that counts!

I chatted with the race director at the finish. He used to put on another race called the Rubber Ducky in the fall which runs the reverse (counter-clockwise) of this Shamrock race. He was seriously thinking about adding that race back to his series calendar – I hope he does!

Thanks Try Events, I always enjoy running your races. Great fun, great course & great volunteers!

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Fort 2 Fort Trail Run Half

This event, the Fort 2 Fort 8K and Half Marathon took place in February and was hosted by the Peninsula Runners. When I registered for this race, I thought it was going to be just another typical half marathon road race. Little did I realize that the race was actually part of the Fraser Valley Trail Run Series that consists of four races throughout the year, showcasing the beautiful parks of the Fraser Valley.

In the weeks leading up to this race, the weather had been cold, but not to the degree I was expecting for this particular day. The forecast for the city called for cold weather with the possibility of light snow. When I arrived at the race venue, the grounds were icy and covered with rather thick, heavy snow. Although I was mentally prepared for cold weather, I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be this icy.

The bib pick-up was in the morning. I got there early, but when I noticed that there was only one port-o-potty, I got my husband to drive back out to the nearest Starbucks so I could use a decent washroom. As we returned, the parking lot was starting to fill with cars and runners.

Prior to the race start, it seemed that nobody could figure out where the actual start line was as it wasn’t obvious. Everyone followed each other, eventually standing about 100 metres ahead of the start line until we were instructed to walk back to the “marked” line on the trail.

I looked around me and realized that I was surrounded by some serious trail runners. They all had the right trail shoes or at least had the traxx on their shoes, but I did not. That was my fault for not realizing I signed myself up for a trail race! I did a race earlier in the year where I had slipped and slid because I wore improper footwear, but what were the chances that I would encounter another snowy/icy race which would require me to have spikes on my shoes…guess I was wrong!

For the first 100 metres, I knew I would be up to some kind of challenge. It was either going to be the technical trail and/or the weather, or both. I struggled from the beginning of the race. The course included 2 rather technical and hilly loops early on before easing into some flatter trails. However, these trails were well covered with tree roots and a fairly uneven surface. As I was into about my 13k, I heard 2 dogs barking, got distracted and twisted my left foot onto this huge tree root. That hurt like crazy, but I kept running. Then about 2K later, my left foot slipped again on a patch of ice and I thought I had to call it quits for real. I tried to walk it off, but I felt my foot swelling up. I continued racing nevertheless. This same incident happened to me a year ago at another trail race where I injured my left foot. That time it took me almost 3 weeks to fully recover…

This time, it was little less severe, I continued running on the  pain on my left foot, barely a quick jog  to make it to the turn-around which was at Fort Langley. In that area, there was even more ice patches. I personally found the ground treacherous. But to finish, I still had 3K to go. Each additional step felt like it would still take an eternity to get to the finish. Bearing the pain though, somehow I made it back in one piece. My husband was waiting for me at the finish, chatting with the race director and the Mizuno shoe rep. My foot had swollen up at least one shoe size by this point. I did not want to interrupt their conversation but I joined in anyway. They were real nice people. It was my first time meeting the race director. His credentials were truly impressive.

The race had no medals, but the experience of running a real trail race was priceless. I only have myself to blame for being careless in tripping my foot.

I will continue on my next blog as to what happened to my foot 🙂

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Birch Bay Half Marathon

In the second week of February, I ran the Birch Bay Half Marathon, a race that I have done before. It was a very cold, crisp morning but the skies were a gorgeous blue colour.

When I arrived at Birch Bay, which is just a short drive south of the US-Canada border, I saw a few of my Marathon Maniacs friends. As usual, they were the serious, enthusiastic ones who were running the marathon distance. Meanwhile, compared to them I was the “wimpy” one who chose the half distance.

I don’t know why I chose to wear capris because immediately after stepping outside my butt and legs were freezing! At the beginning of the race, my whole body just couldn’t get going. Like a car, I almost need anti-freeze! The half marathoners and marathoners started together. I think I was the last one to cross the start.

This is a course that I am familiar with because I have run races in Birch Bay for the last 5-6 years. The close proximity to home makes this location a great choice to run races, and so I find that Birch Bay races attract quite a number of Canadians, although this time it attracted runners from as far away as New York! I also like the fact that these races are typically smaller and the volunteers and organizers are always friendly. Having run so many of them now, I have become acquainted with the Birch Bay running community.

I like that this course loops around the Bay. It is very hilly, but such a lovely course. The half marathoners ran one loop around the Bay, while the full marathoners did two loops, as well as an extra mini loop around mile 6 or 7. The marathoners appeared to all be fast. I felt fine after warming up a couple of miles into the race, but then came a long stretch of about a one-mile long hill. I walked parts of it, which helped make it more manageable. On certain days, hills aren’t so bad, but on this particular day, it was real tough! The half marathoners split from the marathoners after this major hill. The fulls turned right while we continued onto the left and followed a different route back down to the water towards the finish line. This year, there was not much of a head-wind luckily, or else that combined with the icy cold weather would have been brutal. So, the back half of the race was actually quite pleasant. Very friendly residents were out for their walks, and the volunteers were diligent in ensuring water and snacks were out on the tables.

The biggest challenge was the last mile and a half. I could see the finish in the distance, but it was deceiving due to the curves of the roads. Many full marathoners were already onto their second loop at this point, and they were so friendly – when I should have been cheering them on, instead, they were so nice to cheer me on. I pushed to the finish, and when I got there, lots of runners had already finished their races. By then, the sun was brightly shining. There were many smiles at the finish, and every runner seemed happy to be done, especially me 🙂

Another Birch Bay race complete…but no doubt I will be back for more!

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Fort Langley Half Marathon

When I first ran this race several years ago, I found out that Fort Langley was the founding place of British Columbia, and it also served as the former fur trade post of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Fort has been preserved as much as possible, so inside there are many artifacts including an old canoe, an old log cabin, and then a building which houses replicas of artifacts of the old soldiers and their living quarters showing how they lived in the old days. This race starts right at the Fort, giving runners the opportunity to see it for themselves!

The Fort is considered a Canadian Heritage Site and it is situated in the township of Fort Langley, a quaint little town with a lot of character. I sense a very tight-knit community, one where its citizens are proud of Fort Langley’s rich heritage. I love the coffee shops and all of the specialty boutiques. The buildings are all designed a certain way to maintain an old feel. I can’t remember how many times I have run in Fort Langley, but every time it has felt like being transported back a couple centuries!

The morning was a bit chilly; it was that kind of February morning where frost covered the lawns, and breathing in stung your lungs a bit. But the organizers had a little campfire set up in the far end of the Fort so runners could gather around and stay warm.

A few runners volunteered to lead the race warm-up. Those guys were full of energy, telling us to stretch, move our arms, our legs. When it comes to warming-up, I am quite lazy. I followed about half the moves only then stopped.

I love this race because it combines the challenges of a number of long hills, and a rather rolling course. The view is gorgeous, you see the mountains on the far end, and the valleys closer by. Some of the homes along the course are mansion-like. They are huge and come with their own stables.

A part of the course includes the Telegraph Trail. According to google, the character-defining elements of the Telegraph Trail include: topography of the road, expressed in its winding characteristics, dips & rises, narrow width of the road, lack of road shoulder, shallow ditches, edges lined with grass & shrubs. And scenic vistas experienced along the road. If you are interested in learning more, you can google Telegraph Trail in Langley, B.C. for more details.

The race was fun as I got to meet many runners: a father & daughter team where the dad was leading his daughter with her first half marathon. The dad was so sweet & proud of every single step his daughter took, while the daughter was so proud her own dad was her coach. I was so happy for them. The daughter later told me that they will run the Vancouver marathon, and it will be her first. I totally wish them well. And I talked to other runners who ran this course for the first time and did not expect Langley to be so hilly.

All in all, I had a good day. The volunteers were nice, and runners were supportive of each other. It was such a positive environment. For me, the best part was having our old neighbour, who moved away to Langley last year, and his daughter come out to cheer me on at the end. It was a very nice surprise to see them and it was so nice to catch up. This race is always a memorable one, mostly because of the scenery and the history of Fort Langley but also because it is so well-organized by Try Events. Thanks to everyone involved!

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The Innocence of Running

Before I continue with my other race recaps, I thought it would be a nice break to talk about a different topic altogether.

When I first picked up running, I was naïve and running back then was totally innocent. I remember walking into a general sports store (a SportsChek or something) and grabbing a pair of what I thought would be good running shoes. Thinking back, they were so heavy and obviously not fitted to my feet properly, but what did I know back then…I would wear any old cotton tees. My runs would be at a speed of about 3.5 mph, on those old treadmills that were self-powered.

I bought all these running books and studied diligently on how to run my first 10k. Do I walk/run? What speed could I maintain without burning out? I remember asking a fairly seasoned runner on how to up your mileage from 8k to 10k. It was so hard then. For hill training, I would run up and down a 3-storey pedestrian ramp 4-5 times. After every run, I wanted to give up. What was the point of putting all this effort into training for something that was so difficult? I did not see the pleasure in running at all!

Each time before I went out for a run, I would tie and retie my shoelaces a million times. I would check and double check if I had emergency cash on me and my house keys in my back pocket (which would be secured with a safety pin over my pocket) in case the keys fell out. Plus, I would go to the washroom at least 3-4 times before I would actually leave the house. I would peek out the front window to see if it was raining or about to rain. I was so over-prepared! Hilarious.

When the weather got cooler, I would wear about four layers of clothes: tank top, long sleeve, pullover and windbreaker. Usually mid-way, I would shed my windbreaker and tie it around my waist such that the sleeves would hit my ankles when I ran. And at every intersection, I would have to adjust and re-tie it so it would not slip off my waist.

When I passed friends in the midst of a run, I would stop and chat, but it took me forever to re-start. It was worse running with more experienced runners; I was so excited when the traffic light turned “red” because I could stop and catch my breath. With a hill surge, I had to pretend I could go up without any problem, when in fact my lungs were burning and my legs were dying – but I just wanted to prove that I could keep up. I stopped at every water-fountain I could find, and took bathroom breaks wherever I could. When I went out for an 8k run, I don’t think I ever ran more than 4k continuously.

Plus, when I started out in one of my running clubs, every runner was on the same page. We were mostly “novice” runners, so we would share stories about our training runs, which new route we tried out and so on. We formed this level of comradery and we all tried to help each other out. The excitement was oblivious to every one of us new runners.

After a rainy/muddy run, I would go home and spray my shoes with a hose, scrub and clean them and then let them dry in the garage. I treated my running shoes like some guys’ sports cars! I did not want any dirt on them, and felt almost heartbroken when they did get dirty. And with any racing shirts I got, I would wear them everywhere as if I needed the whole world to know that I ran a children’s 5k run! Oh how proud I was!

With the first few Vancouver Sun Run 10K races I did, I enjoyed collecting the race t-shirts that came with the registration. I folded them so neatly in my running gear drawer, and occasionally, I’d dig them out and admire them 😉

Those were the days! Every run and race was a novel experience. Sometimes, I wish I could go back to those running days of innocence. For some of those experiences were my most joyful moments of running. Had not been that innocent (or naïve), I probably would never have picked up this sport.

To any new runners out there, may you persevere, and go on to further your distance or speed, or if you choose to stay at your “innocent” level, enjoy every moment of it.  To the seasoned runners, occasionally it is good to look back at that stage of “innocence” and realize how far you have come.

Whichever stage you are at, just keep putting that one foot in front of the other!

Hypothermic Half 2017

This race was the first of four halfs I completed in the month of February. Normally by this time in Vancouver the weather has slowly begun to get nicer and warmer. In 2010, the year when Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics, there was not enough snow on the ski hills that a number of them had artificial snow flown in so that events could go on. It must have been 10 to 15 degrees on average during that time.

This year was especially cold – blame it on global warming!? On the day that I ran the half, it was snowing. Lots and lots of fresh snow. It was perfectly “hypothermic”!

The course was by the Jericho Sailing Club. Basically, the grounds were slippery and felt like I was running on a snow-covered mountain trail rather than in the city. It was extremely beautiful. The snow had to be about 10 inches thick. Soft & fluffy.

The race started at 9:00 a.m. Runners resembled penguins. We were all gliding along this narrow single track which had just enough room to place one foot in front of the other. The smarter runners had attached snow tracks to their runners. I obviously came unprepared. So I was slip-sliding in every way.

It was a 2 loop course. It was really out of the ordinary. The track was totally impossible to land a footing. But somehow, everyone managed to carry on despite the difficulty. Surprisingly there were people walking their dogs and even a film crew filming either a snow scene or a small commercial.

The turnaround for the first 5k was so slippery, I saw everyone slipping everywhere! Immediately after the first 5k was a water station (oh, I should call it the ice station). Water was half frozen. Hands were so cold that it was impossible to even grab the cup.

Getting accustomed to the snow while running, I thought I could conquer this mini hill; which, retrospectively, seemed like a slide. It was so slippery, I felt like I was moving forward at all. I couldn’t count how many times I had fallen. At one point, I fell & almost twisted my left ankle 😦

I think time became un-essential here as everyone was on a ” just to finish” mode. Somehow, the time went by and we all arrived at the finish line – albeit slower than normal.

I was lucky to even finish this race, considering how un-prepared I was for this “snowy adventure”. But it was a one-of-a-kind experience! In hindsight, I enjoyed myself. It gave me something to be proud about, that I finished something that was totally out of my comfort zone.

I was handed my medal at the finish line. And as hypothermic as I was feeling, the free breakfast buffet was waiting for me! It seemed like suddenly everyone had this burst of energy, with the room being filled with conversations about how crazy the race was. I had a huge cup of hot tea. Even then, my body was still shivering. And surprisingly, I finished my breakfast. Normally, right after a race, I don’t have much of an appetite (unless you tempt me with ice cream bars…my weakness!)

It had been such a joyful, but challenging morning. Joyful because of what nature may bring; challenging because of the lack of preparation or practice running under these conditions. Nonetheless, would I do this race again? Absolutely. Except I would come well-prepared next time!

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Dopey Challenge – Day 4: the Marathon

Finally, the last day of the Dopey Challenge arrived. I call it the final crowning glory day of the RunDisney race weekend in Disneyworld.

This is normally the toughest day of all. Not only because of the actual mileage, but also because of having to wake up before 3:30am four days in a row. Heading into this final day, I am sure all the runners were dragging themselves out of bed just to face the challenge.

Leaving at 4am was not fun. It took twice as long to get to the Disney parking lot as there were more runners running the marathon than the previous days’ races, and the fact that the race start is farther away. When we got to our usual parking lot, it was full already. So we were diverted to the additional lots. We parked and I gathered my stuff, and walked towards the monorail that connects the parks. It was cold for a January morning in Florida. Riding the train, I began to feel nervous. We were on the train for about 5 minutes before arriving at the Epcot. Every runner got off the train and moved towards the entrance of the park.

There were lots of tired yet excited runners. We followed the same routine as the past couple of days, having to go through security where they checked everyone’s bags prior to letting us in to the park. Once we were in, there were chutes set up in alphabetical order and I went into mine accordingly. Volunteers were working really hard to make sure runners were taken care of. At this point, I was desperately looking for the potty line. There were tons of potties but still seemingly not enough given the long line ups that formed. I patiently waited and then when I got out of the potty, I realized I had left my mitts inside :(. There was no time to go back in to retrieve them, so instead I had to pull my sleeves down so my hands wouldn’t freeze.

Slowly, we all inched towards our assigned corrals. There were many runners zig-zagging through other runners, likely trying to get to their spots in the first corral. It seemed like many were off to a late start already! I was pretty close to my corral when the national anthem started to play. We all stood still until it was finished, and then there was a mad rush of runners heading into their assigned corrals. From the first corral crossing the start line mat to mine, it was about a half hour wait, because there were so many runners in each corral.

The first 10K was run in pitch darkness, so there wasn’t a whole lot to see. The half way mark is near the Animal Kingdom of Disneyworld. This year was more disappointing than previous years during this part of the race because the only animal present which runners could pat or take pictures with was a baby ram. It was cute, but nothing compared to when they used to bring out a warthog (like Pumbaa from the Lion King). Plus this year, the race didn’t include the speedway racetrack, which was something I liked. That used to be so cool, with all the fast cars and antique cars all parked around the speedway.

Maybe it was because I already knew what to expect, but the course up until this point didn’t prove to be that challenging or fun. But that sentiment changed once I entered the ESPN Sports Stadium where I kind of felt the excitement coming back. As there was a huge projection screen showing runners running in the stadium, that was kind of cool.

For the later miles, I do not recall what I passed through…I was totally zoned out! I only knew that by mile 22, I was on the trail heading back towards the Epcot and the finish line. Random strangers were handing out little chocolate bars and pretzels. I grabbed a whole bunch and continued on. There was something about that moment, but let me tell you, chocolates never tasted so good!

By the time I got back to Epcot, there were many visitors (families with their kids) in the park already. I passed by the Canadian pavilion and two of their staff were out holding out the Canadian flag. When I saw them, I wanted to weave my way through other runners to that side to say hi, but figured I shouldn’t waste any time. So on the last mile, I felt the excitement – I heard the cheers of the crowds that had gathered, and suddenly runners all around me sped up and so I sped up too. The last entertainment group on the course was a church choir and once I passed them and turned the corner, there was only .2 miles to go.

I was quite focused on just crossing the finish line. But when I saw Mickey Mouse & Donald Duck at the finishing line, a big smile grew across my face and I sped up to get across the line to give them high-fives. I walked through the line to collect my other medals, for a total of 6 medals collected. But as I said in my previous blog post, this year, I technically earned only 3 of the 6 medals I received. Because the Half was cancelled due to the weather, I could not claim to have earned the half medal, the Goofy Challenge medal (completing the half and the full) nor the Dopey Challenge medal (completing all four days of racing).

The Dopey Marathon somehow seemed like a dream. Maybe it was the fireworks at the start, or the entertainment surrounding me, but it certainly did not feel like a race. The whole marathon covers all the 5 theme parks at Disneyworld, which is very cool. A lot of the race is run in the dark, but by the time the sun rises, (for me) the Magic Kingdom is in sight and you can see it glisten and sparkle! So Magical!

I am happy to say that I completed my 3rd Dopey Challenge, and this was the 3rd year in a row doing it. This Dopey Challenge 2017 was definitely more bitter-sweet than the others since I felt that it was an “incomplete” Dopey. But the runs were still memorable and the reason for cancelling the half was out of anybody’s control.

Overall, RunDisney put on a great race as always. I look forward to running other RunDisney races in the near future!

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